You may have been told to “just go on the pill” to fix your hormones, regulate your periods, stop PMS and heavy menstrual bleeding. It sounds wonderful, all you have to do is take a pill everyday or a shot every few months and all your symptoms are gone.
But, just like any magical quick fix solution, it is too good to be true.
Don’t get me wrong! Hormonal contraceptives are a very effective band-aid solution for your symptoms (as long as you are taking them). But don't be confused. Hormonal contraceptives don’t FIX your hormones or menstrual problems, only suppress them.
How hormonal contraceptives work
Hormonal contraceptives like the ‘pill’ contain synthetic hormones which turn off or alter your own natural hormones.
Contraceptives contain synthetic progesterone which tricks your body into thinking you have already ovulated (since you can only produce progesterone after ovulation).
Like we spoke about earlier, hormonal contraceptives don’t FIX Your hormones. This means that once you come off your contraceptive you are still going back to the same hormone imbalances as you had before. . As a result you do not ovulate - and without ovulation you cannot get pregnant.
Since your ovulation hormones essentially ‘go to sleep’ while you are on contraceptives, it may take months of years for you to get these hormones to ‘wake-up’ again. Alternatively, you may also experience a ‘rebound effect’ after your natural estrogen & testosterone are suppressed for a long time. This can result in hormonal imbalances like estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Other Side Effects
Besides the hormone shifting effects of hormonal contraceptives, you may also experience other effects. Including:
Mood changes: Including increased risk for suicide, depression, anxiety & mental illness.
Depletes vitamins and minerals: vitamin E, A, C, D, B-Complex, Magnesium & Zinc
Increases risk for autoimmune disease
Increases risk for blood clots, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol diabetes & heart attack
Can worsen acne or skin hyperpigmentation
Can disrupt your gut flora & increase risk for yeast overgrowth/thrush.
Increases risk for brain, breast & liver cancer
Impact thyroid function
Impact adrenal function
Increases risk for gallbladder disease
Changes the chemistry of your brain
Who Hormonal Contraceptives Benefit
I am not totally anti-contraceptive, I am pro informed-choice. Hormonal contraceptives can be a great tool & have their time, place and purpose.
Hormonal contraceptives work well for:
Women who have finished having children & don’t have any suspected hormonal imbalances.
Women with severe endometriosis
Women with high risk for ovarian or endometrial cancer
Women who do not want to have a menstrual cycle
Women who are unable to have the copper IUD or do the fertility awareness method
High risk women
Breaking up with birth control is never easy. If you are thinking of changing about ditching the hormones I recommend taking the time to do your research and come to an alternative which suits you. The most effective non-hormonal contraceptive methods are:
Fertility Awareness Method (With perfect use, the fertility awareness method is about 95-99% effective)
Femtech devices and apps (93-98% effective)
Copper IUD 99% effective
Female Condom (79% effective at preventing pregnancy)
Condoms (98% effective is used correctly)
Diaphragm (88% effective in preventing pregnancy)
Birth control sponge + spermicide (76% effective in preventing pregnancy)
The takeaway message for you to understand is that: hormonal contraceptive only treat the symptoms or hormone imbalances but do not deal with the root cause. If you are taking hormonal contraceptives because you have hormonal symptoms, rather than for contraceptive, we need to figure out why you are having these symptoms in the first place.
In clinic, I find women need extra support to get their bodies back into gear after the contraceptive pill. I recommend a personalized consultation & hormone testing for women to help them understand the cause of their symptoms in the first place. Together, we can can get you back to optimal hormone health free from codependency with contraceptives.
We got this sister!
Storm is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with Functional Naturopathy. After her own experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome, anxiety & IBS, she is now passionate about helping other women find the balance they deserve. In her clinic she has a patient centered approach; utilizing comprehensive testing, naturopathic wisdom & up to date research to help women meet their health goals.